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The CBC focuses its spotlight on democracy
Ahead of what could be a series of unfavorable Supreme Court decisions, the Congressional Black Caucus is convening a half-day summit next week to strategize a sustained response.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
In the video President Joe Biden’s campaign released last week to announce his re-election, the prevailing message was immediately clear: Democracy will be on the ballot again in 2024. And ahead of a series of consequential decisions from the Supreme Court, the Congressional Black Caucus would argue that democracy is on the docket too.
But instead of waiting for the rulings from the court’s conservative supermajority to craft a response, the caucus next Tuesday will convene its first National Summit on Democracy & Race and launch a Summer of Action to Defend Democracy.
“After the Dobbs decision, it became abundantly clear that not a lot of groups or government actors necessarily had a plan,” a senior congressional aide said on Tuesday during a preview call with reporters referring to the case that overturned the right to federal abortion care last summer. “And this go around, in anticipating Supreme Court decisions expected shortly on or around May 11, we are hoping to not recreate that policy chaos.”
The summit comes as young voters of color — a key constituency in the Biden coalition — feel deep frustration that several pieces of legislation designed to expand and protect voting rights and advance police accountability languished during the last Congress.
A second senior congressional aide told Supercreator that millennials and Gen Z will have a seat at the table, pointing to the leadership of Democratic Rep. Maxwell Frost of Florida — the youngest and first Gen Z member of Congress who held an event at the Capitol last week with Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones of Tennessee, one of the three state lawmakers targeted by the legislature for leading a gun violence protest from the well of the statehouse.
“This is of particular importance to us, the engagement of young people,” the aide said. “We saw the performance, obviously, of young people in the midterm elections.”
It also arrives in front of the forthcoming Supreme Court decision on the scope of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified in Section 4 of the VRA.
The CBC expects the court to revise the legal standard for determining if a district is racially gerrymandered in violation of Section 2 and the 14th Amendment and for state legislatures to be emboldened to potentially call a special session [and] redraw lines to divide black communities, which they know will pass legal muster against the Supreme Court if the provision is gutted the same way Section 5 of the VRA was a decade ago.
The court is also preparing to rule in two affirmative action cases — Students for Fair Admissions versus UNC and Students for Fair Admissions versus Harvard — where the challengers argue that a school’s consideration of race as part of a holistic review of applicants to build a more diverse student body is itself unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of race under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
“The question is essentially whether consideration of race is itself racist, and we know that there are folks on the court who do, in fact, believe this,” a senior aide said. “So we are bracing for a negative decision in that respect that could have wide-ranging implications for both public and private businesses, [diversity, equity, and inclusion] initiatives in all levels of employment and education.”
The summit will focus on three main areas — voting rights and redistricting, affirmative action and culture wars, and civic engagement and coalition building — and provide a forum for government leaders, scholars, activists, experts and thought leaders from across the country to strategize a nationwide response against attempts to erase African American history and hold government actors and state legislators accountable for protecting all Americans’ fundamental freedoms.
“The CBC will encourage principal attendees to announce specific actions and commitment to advance legislative, executive and community-based solutions,” a senior aide said.
As the caucus was planning the event, a senior aide said the attacks on the Tennessee Three and subsequent expulsions of Reps. Jones and Justin Pearson along with the recent decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court to reverse two rulings that rejected partisan gerrymandering reinforced its sense of urgency.
The Summer of Action that will follow the summit is in part recognition that some of the threats to democracy — the public school book bans, for example — are rooted at the state and local levels and require CBC members to get out of Washington to fight back.
A senior aide said the caucus will announce the cities members will hitting across the country soon, but noted that the movement extends beyond the CBC.
“I anticipate that we will be joined in this effort by Black mayors across the country and other Black state legislators and not just Black leaders. ” they said. “There are a number of leaders who have reached out to us in recent weeks who want to be part of our Summer of Action.”
A senior aide told Supercreator that the White House is aware of the summit and has been engaged with the CBC on a number of issues.
“We want to make certain that the White House is fully prepared to use every tool in their arsenal if we get a negative ruling on the affirmative action case, if we get a negative ruling on the voting rights case, if we continue to see state legislatures and states who receive federal funding continue to take some of the aggressive actions of banning books, kicking out legislators, all of these things that we're seeing across the country,” the aide said. “We want to make certain that this administration and Congress do everything they can to safeguard those freedoms. And so yes, we are engaging the White House. We’re engaging in Congress as well, both in the House and the Senate, with anyone who will talk about these issues and there is traction there.”
But next week’s event and the summerlong effort are also an acknowledgment of the current divided Congress and the limited scope of President Biden’s executive authority, which makes sustainable legislative action on these issues harder to come by.
“We will not win every fight in Congress. We will not get every executive order or DOJ policy that we want,” the aide added. “And so a part of the work that we will do next week, and in the weeks to come will inherently have to be done through organizing on the ground in anticipation of the forthcoming presidential election.”
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Welcome to Supercreator Daily, your weekday morning guide to the politicians, power brokers and policies shaping the American creator experience. It’s Wednesday, May 3, 2023, also known as National Press Freedom Day — an opportunity to celebrate the right to freedom of expression.
••• PRESIDENT BIDEN TODAY will nominate Loren L. AliKhan to serve on the District Court for the District of Columbia.
If confirmed, AliKhan would be the first South Asian woman to serve on this court and the only active Asian American Pacific Islander woman judge on the court.
Of the 122 judges who serve on courts established under Article Three of the US Constitution that President Biden has nominated and the Senate has confirmed, 70 percent of them are women, and 19 are AAPI or Native Hawaiian.
••• DEMOCRATIC SEN. JOE MANCHIN of West Virginia today will meet with Julie Su to discuss her nomination to be the next Labor Secretary after she was advanced out of committee last week.
With Su unlikely to receive any Republican support, Manchin, along with Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana and Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, will determine whether or not she’s confirmed. (None of the three senators have indicated how they will vote.)
The White House has backed Su’s confirmation and said administration officials have been in constant communication with senators during the confirmation process. If confirmed, Su would be the first Asian American to lead the Labor Department.
See also: “How labor secretary nominee Julie Su Labor could change the landscape for gig workers” (Jessica Bursztynsky / Fast Company)
••• DEMOCRATIC SEN. SHERROD BROWN of Ohio this afternoon will lead the fifth annual bipartisan reading of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail on the Senate floor.
Brown will be joined by Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Republicans Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and John Boozman of Arkansas. (Warnock along with Democratic Sens. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Republican Sens. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Susan Collins of Maine, and Mitt Romney of Utah participated in the letter reading last year.)
Dr. King penned the letter 60 years ago from his cell at the Birmingham Jail, where he and other protestors were detained for leading a series of nonviolent protests and boycotts in the Alabama city to put pressure on the business community to end discriminatory hiring practices. Former Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama initiated the annual floor reading in 2019.
See also: “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (The Bill of Rights Institute)
••• A GROUP OF top House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell urging him to pause interest rate hikes ahead of another expected increase this afternoon.
The 10 lawmakers — Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Democratic Reps. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Jerry Nadler and Jamaal Bowman of New York, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Katie Porter of California, and Greg Casar of Texas — argue doing so respects the Fed’s dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability, especially in the wake of the recent banking crisis.
“We remain deeply concerned that the Fed risks throwing millions of Americans out of work in its drive to raise interest rates even higher, they wrote. “History casts doubt on the Fed’s ability to engineer an unemployment rate that just ‘rise(s) a bit.’”
••• DEMOCRATIC REPS. JAMIE RASKIN of Maryland and Jared Huffman of California on Tuesday introduced a resolution to establish May 4th as a “National Day of Reason.”
The observance would “recognize and celebrate science, common sense and logic as essential preconditions for progress in our government and society at large,” according to the lawmakers.
“At a time when authoritarians, demagogues and hucksters around the world are promoting conspiracy theories, irrationalism, bigotry and propaganda, it is more important than ever to defend truth and reason, which are central to a strong democracy,” Raskin said. “A National Day of Reason will bring our nation’s founding tenets of empirical inquiry, knowledge, facts and science to the forefront.”
••• MORE THAN 250 congressional Democrats on Tuesday announced they filed a “friend of the court” brief urging the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a district court decision that banned the abortion drug mifepristone.
“The consequences of the district court’s remedy could extend far beyond mifepristone, for it undermines the science-based, expert-driven process that Congress designed for determining whether drugs are safe and effective,” the lawmakers wrote. “Providers and patients rely on the availability of thousands of FDA-approved drugs to treat or manage a range of medical conditions, including asthma, HIV, infertility, heart disease, diabetes, and more.”
The Supreme Court has blocked the district court’s ruling and a narrower decision by the Fifth Circuit while the appeals process plays out. Democrats previously filed two briefs with the Fifth Circuit and Supreme Court in defense of mifepristone and the FDA’s approval process.
ICYMI: “Why the reaction to the Supreme Court’s emergency medication abortion ruling was so measured” … “Abortion rights advocates turn their attention back to SCOTUS” … “Why abortion rights advocates fear birth control could be next”
••• A MOTLEY CREW of House Republicans and Democrats on Tuesday introduced a bill that would prohibit members from trading in stocks while they are serving in Congress and have access to sensitive, inside information.
“This is basic common sense and basic integrity 101,” Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania said about the Bipartisan Restoring Faith in Government Act, which he introduced with Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. “And we all view this as a critical first step to return the House of Representatives back to the people.”
The legislation would apply to their spouses and any dependents too.
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President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing and this afternoon have lunch with Vice President Harris. The president and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden this evening will host a dinner for Combatant Commanders.
Vice President Harris this evening will also participate in a moderated conversation at the White House Asian American & Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Forum at George Washington University.
Dr. Biden this afternoon will also join Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor for a visit to the Bronx Children’s Museum to celebrate the recent opening of its new permanent home and its multicultural education programming for the local community.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Small Business Administrator Isabel Guzman this morning will travel to Minnesota to participate in a series of events to celebrate National Small Business Week, including:
A roundtable with new Americans and small business community leaders at Adama Restaurant and Awash Bakery
A visit to Afro Deli and Grill and meeting with the National Small Business Person of the Year, Abdirahman Kahin
Speeches at the National Small Business Week Awards Ceremony
A meeting with small business owners at Asia Mall
A meeting with staff and tour of Sciencix Inc, the National Exporter of the Year
The Senate is in this morning with two votes scheduled to confirm Orelia Eleta Merchant to be the US District for the Eastern District of New York and advance the nomination for Wesley L. Hsu to be the US District Judge for the Central District of Columbia. In the evening, four votes are scheduled to:
Repeal President Biden’s pause on tariffs for solar panels from four Southeast Asian countries,
Strike down the listing of the lesser prairie-chicken under the Endangered Species Act,
Confirm the Hsu nomination, and
Advance the nomination of LaShonda A. Hunt to be US District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois.
The House is out.
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